FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 24, 2016) -- If the chance to bag a 300-pound hog on a hunting trip is not enough, Fort Rucker offers some other incentives to entice people to bring home the bacon.
In recent decades, feral hogs on Fort Rucker have become an issue that needs to be dealt with, said Doug Watkins, natural resources branch chief. "Over 20 years, it has evolved into a massive problem. Being an invasive species, these animals are now creating an environmental problem on Fort Rucker, as well as destroying our training lands. All of our surrounding neighbors are being severely impacted, as well."
Officials hope the incentives will help reduce the impact the animals are having, said John Clancy, outdoor recreation manager. "We are trying to get their population down because they destroy property by undermining roads, rooting the ground up, and competing with the native wildlife for space and food.
"Our hunter incentive program is a way we are fighting this population growth," he said. "If a hunter or trapper can harvest 20 hogs from August of last year to August of this year, they will get an additional Buck Tag added to the two that they can normally get."
People can get state hunting licenses and post permits at outdoor recreation, which also keeps all regulations, maps and descriptions of what can be hunted in the various hunting areas, Clancy added. Hunters also need to take the online safety course.
No experience? No problem. "We have a mentor program for people wanting to get into hunting, fishing or trapping for the first time," he said, adding that experienced hunters can become mentors by contacting outdoor recreation.
Outdoor recreation also has hunters who might be a little overwhelmed with all the meat that comes with a 300-pound hog covered. "We are currently installing a brand new walk-in game cooler for hunters," said Clancy. "A second game cooler will be installed around back shortly after, providing two options for hunters needing to temporarily store game."
Hunters can come to outdoor recreation and register for space in the cooler, he added.
The Feral Hog Volunteer Trapping Program enlists help from the community surrounding Fort Rucker to help control the population while offering trappers of all experience levels education and equipment. Trapping is really the only proven effective method for controlling a population of this size, said Watkins. The program supplies the trap and the bait for volunteers that want to help control the hog population, he said.
Feral hogs have been designated an invasive species by both the Federal government and the State of Alabama, said Daniel Spillers, fish and wildlife administrator.
"You can take some out by hunting," he added, "but traps are a better way. One person can impact the problem more with trapping. Estimates say that you need to take 80 percent of the population each year just to keep up with the population growth. That is a tremendous amount when you are talking thousands of hogs."
The natural resources branch supplies one 50-pound bag of corn per trap, per month, and volunteers need to check their trap for hogs on a daily basis, depending on whether the trigger is set. Then hunters need to notify wildlife personnel of the numbers of hogs caught on a weekly or monthly basis, said Watkins. "And volunteer trappers need to obtain an Alabama State Hunting License and a Fort Rucker Hunting Permit in order to trap."
Alabama state law applies to all hunting and trapping done on Fort Rucker, explained Watkins. People can read Fort Rucker Regulation 215-1 for the most up-to-date rules on Fort Rucker hunting and trapping.
"Additionally, we need people that are willing to accept feral hog meat when we have a surplus. Anyone interested in being added to our donation list can contact us at 255-2416," added Spillers.
The problem is not localized to Fort Rucker, explained Spillers. "There are many city-, county- and state-run programs to assist private land owners with trapping costs and information. The level of assistance people can get depends on where they live in the U.S. and what programs are available in their area."
Watkins explained that Fort Rucker is working closely with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service -- the federal agency that specializes in the removal of problem wildlife. "We have had them here on numerous occasions and we are following the recommended plan for Fort Rucker closely. We have consulted with Auburn University and various other biologists in the local area to develop the best strategy for combating this problem."
For information on the Feral Hog Volunteer Trapping Program, call the natural resources branch at 255-9363 or 255-2416. For information on hunting hogs and incentive deer tags, call outdoor recreation at 255-4305.